I don't think you ever lose the pre-race jitters. Out of all the races I've done of all different distances, I always get nervous the week before a race. This time it hit me two weeks before the race. I was closed off and focused on getting my miles in, I knew I could relax after the race. But that didn't really happen either. (We will get back to that).
Race weekend came and it was the first time I had to travel by plane to a race. This summer, I have relocated to Cleveland, and the race was in Burlington so I flew into Boston late Friday night, and woke up early Saturday to drive up with Ryan and my brother to Vermont for bib pick up and settling in the night before the race.
I love race expos, the energy of everyone getting ready for one event, all the cool running gadgets, the event t-shirts that are always too expensive so you don't buy them, it's all so much fun. I had to remind myself not to talk about my training plan with others. not because I didn't want to reveal my secrets (as if I have the key to winning marathons), but because it's like comparing notes after taking a test, the work has been put it and you can't do anything about it now. Hearing that someone else ran 22 miles for their longest run and you only ran 16 can make you feel as if you aren't ready and just make you more nervous. (By the way, I only ran 16 miles before the race and made it through okay).
I tried to get a good nights sleep the nights leading up to the race but I wasn't doing too hot with that. My nerves and a last minute hip strain made sleep almost impossible, so I tried to get in rest whenever I could. The morning of the race, I had to wake up at 4am to eat and get on the road by 5am. That was the easiest it's ever been for me to wake up that early.
We got to the race, drank our water, used the porta-potties, (twice), then it was time for me to line up. I'm not going to lie, I was tearing up as I was waiting for the race to start. I had put so many miles and so much of myself into preparing for this moment, and I was finally going to accomplish what I started. When the gun went off, I pulled it together and started to run.
Miles 1-10, I stayed with the 4:15 time group. Arguably, too fast to start. I burnt out on all the big hills right off in the beginning of the course. This section of the race included the beltway- basically a stretch of highway you run down 4 miles and back 4 miles, with no one around you. It was terrible. I tried putting on a podcast to keep myself interested but with everything going on I couldn't focus and it wasn't helping, so I put on my motivational tunes and put my head down and ran.
Miles 10-15, I started to get dehydrated. I had gels with me but I couldn't figure out how to time it right so I had the gel right before a water station so I figured I'd stick to the oranges, ice pops, and Gatorade little kids were giving us on the course. God bless the ice pop children. I thought I was over-hydrating and didn't want to drink too much and consequentially got dehydrated. Once I realized what was happening, I started grabbing water way more often and figured I'd rather use the porto on the course than get dehydrated and not be able to finish.
Miles 16-24, honestly, don't really remember. It was all a blur at that point. I remember telling my mom on the sideline "F*** my time", and then deciding walking up hills and saving some energy would be more beneficial than trying to force myself up them. "Just keep going, just keep going".
Miles 24-26, holy *** I actually made it this far. I was more amazed with myself and amazed at how much your legs can hurt and your mind can tell you you can't keep going, but your body will keep moving forward. The human body is absolutely crazy. I remember hearing one time in high school, while training for infamous field hockey preseason, that your brain will tell you you should quit way before your body will. Running 26.2 miles takes muscle and practice, but more than anything, it is mental strength. The last two miles I was having an internal battle of "just walk it in" and "do not quit now". That takes real strength.
I hyperventilated over the finish line. I was so overcome with pride, excitement, exhaustion, and even a little sadness that it was over. I'll never forget the EMS guy watching me as I came over that line, making sure I wasn't going to collapse, and I'll never forget hearing "Great job, Paige!" as my medal was put over my head.
As soon as I saw my family, I announced that I was going to stick to half marathons from here on out, but who am I kidding? The adrenaline is addicting. Pretty much the next day I decided I couldn't stop running. It makes me happy. Also, I really liked how much pasta I got to eat during training.